Egypt: President Morsi Backs Down On Powers

Egypt: President Morsi Backs Down On Powers

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has annulled a decree he issued last month expanding his powers, an official has said.

But a referendum on a draft constitution would still go ahead as planned on December 15, Islamist politician Selim al Awa added.

He explained that constitutionally President Morsi was unable to change the date, as Mr al Awa spoke to reporters after talks between the President and political leaders.

The two issues -  the decree and the referendum - have been at the heart of anti-Morsi protests that have rocked Egypt in the past two weeks.

But the initial signs are that Mr Morsi's concession will not satisfy an increasingly fierce opposition which is calling for the vote on the new constitution to be cancelled as well.

Overnight, protesters continued to gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which has become a focal point for anti-Morsi activists, and news of the annulled decree sparked no celebrations.

"This will change nothing," said Mohamed Shakir, 50.

"Even if they offered us honey, it would not be enough," added Hisham Ezzat.

Over the past seven days, the demonstrations have left seven people dead and hundreds injured.

The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, has said it is ready for "serious and objective dialogue" as soon as Mr Morsi met its demands to scrap both the decree and the referendum.

It had rebuffed his offer on Thursday to open talks because he failed to give way on those two points.

On Saturday the Front spoke of the possibility of organising a general strike in protest.

However Islamist groups supportive of Mr Morsi have categorically refused to consider even delaying the constitutional referendum.

Egypt's military has said it will not allow violence and has called on rival political groups in the country to talk.

The controversial decree, issued on November 22, had put the president's decisions beyond judicial review - a measure fiercely denounced as dictatorial by the opposition.

Opposition leaders demanded it be rescinded and the referendum be scrapped before they entered into any dialogue with Mr Morsi to calm a crisis which led to street clashes this week that left seven people dead and hundreds injured.

Egypt's powerful military warned Mr Morsi and the opposition to sit down for talks, otherwise it would take steps to prevent a "disastrous" degradation of the situation.